There is no point in hiding dissapointment. Better instead to work through it. Soundgarden have a new music video out, it’s a bit lazy and pretentious, but mostly just uninteresting. The chief single “Been Away Too Long” however does echo some of that radio rock magic captured just prior to the band’s last breakup. If anyone can make mass consumed rock respectable, it’s Soundgarden. In a world were we alternate been Stone Sour and the Neon Trees, post-grunge still flailing in the periphery, somehow still alive in defiance of all reason and logic, the grunge legends’ fiscally-driven decision seems a lot more benevolent. As the semi-defined grunge movement itself tried to show people, however, the implications of a band’s work go far beyond perception.
All rejuvenated, long-standing artists are judged by the aesthetic of years past. When Ultramega OK was released, many of Soundgarden‘s former punk scene cohorts voiced their displeasure at the move to a major label and a subsequent tour with GNR. These fans were disgruntled a full six years before the Soundgarden‘s plunge into polished radio rock. It’s pretty easy to say that they were simply drunk on the usual cocktail of jealously, resentment and sub-culture tunnel vision. Yet, this was half a decade before the half-dozen radio hits on Superunknown.
Billy Corgan may be a curmudgeonly old fart but, when Cornell and crew are doing Avengers publicity events, making the rounds of late night shows both sides of the pond, and launching their own sneaker with Converse, his rant against this cashgrab reunion suddenly doesn’t seem so baseless. Perhaps Chris, Kim and the gang actually had their image and commercial success in mind all along? Maybe they were the as yet anonymous grunge band who heckled Warrel Dane for having the gall to play heavy metal throughout the dark ages of the 90s. Those of us who prefer the nasty grinding of Alice in Chains can take a perverse kind of solace in the fact that that band was for years at the mercy of Layne Staley’s tortured creativity, a guy who was usually too preoccupied with staring down his own mortality to worry about crosspromotion.
All that aside, for most fans the real test is how they fair with a song that’s 20 years old, albeit in a more subdued style that fits with new material. In case you’re wondering, here’s them playing “Rusty Cage” in Seattle back in 1992 and below is their rendition on Jools Holland’s show a few nights ago. In fact, the songs sounds quite good. They may never again thunder like they did on “Outshined” but the musicianship is there. I’m just starting to delve into King Animal. It isn’t a horrifying experience so far but, then, neither were the first couple of runs through Chinese Democracy. More on this soon.